By: Vicki Haverson
Every single one of us has strengths that make us unique. They dictate our view of the world and influence how we think, feel, and behave. But when the needs of those strengths don’t get met, they can trigger us into places of frustration and toxic behavior. Somehow we end up in a place where the very things that make us brilliant, our strengths, start to show up as weaknesses to those around us.
Here’s an example of how this happens.
One of my top 5 strengths from taking the StrengthsFinder assessment is Empathy. I find it easy to sense the emotions of the people around me and often find I can walk into a room and intuitively sense what is happening. I like to ask questions to find out why people feel a certain way and putting myself into the shoes of others to understand how they feel comes naturally to me.
Because I have the strength of Empathy, I need many of the things that I am able to naturally contribute. For example, I need to be listened to and heard and it’s important that people are kind and gentle towards me. I need to know that the person is there with me, really listening and not being distracted by what’s happening around them. And I need to be able to be emotional without being judged for it.
I’d like you to picture an image of something you are really frightened of doing. For me, that image is jumping off the edge of a huge ravine on a zip line at a great height, which is exactly the situation I found myself in while on a holiday to celebrate my birthday with my husband and two close friends. When the trip was booked I hadn’t considered the height of the zip line, assuming from previous experience I would be whizzing from tree to tree about 10ft off the ground. As soon as I saw the 2,000 ft drop I was terrified and began to cry. My husband’s reaction was to tell me to pull myself together and not to be so silly.
I stormed off to calm down, still flatly refusing to zip line as the others in the group stared at me in shock from my emotional outburst. In that moment my empathy went into overdrive; feeling ashamed and judged, I became increasingly emotional. When I finally calmed down enough to walk back to the group I saw my husband filming me on video camera, infuriating me even more, before he disappeared 1,000ft across the ravine on the zip line (yes, we’re still married!)
It was just me and the instructor, Christophe. “It’s ok,” he said gently. “Take your time. If you don’t want to go you don’t have to. But you know, you will be really safe and I will be going with you. I’ll be right by your side. If you need to close your eyes or cry the whole way across you can. Whatever helps you.” His words calmed me and my frustration started to subside.
What I understood in that moment was that what I needed was for someone to be present with me, to step into my space and understand how I was feeling and what was happening for me. As soon as I received what I needed I was off across that ravine on the zip line staring my fear in the face.
Every one of us is unique. This is backed up by Gallup, which tell us that statistically the chances of someone else having the same top 5 strengths in the same order as you is 1 in 33 million. And because we have different strengths, we have different needs. So, how can you start to get a better understanding of yours?
Step 1: Take the StrengthsFinder Assessment to discover your strengths at www.gallupstrengthscenter.com.
Step 2: Review your report. Highlight all the things that stand out to you. Review the action report which outlines some steps of how you can put those strengths into action.
Step 3: Consider what you find fulfilling and frustrating. How do your strengths contribute to this? Keeping a diary over several weeks helps you to start to see the patterns.
When you understand what the needs of your strengths are, you are able to work towards meeting and managing these to benefit both yourself and others.
Vicki Haverson is a strengths spotter and can see what is unique about individuals, even when they can’t see it for themselves. As an expert in strengths, she can see how to configure a productive team and what might be causing conflict and communication issues. Vickie speaks, coaches, and trains to help people unlock their strengths.
Originally published at www.ellevatenetwork.com.